Haven't seen anything here about today's announcement: BBC News - Bristow Group to take over UK search and rescue from RAF Bristow Group to take over UK search and rescue from RAF Bristow has been awarded a contract to operate helicopters in Shetland and the Western Isles Continue reading the main story Related Stories 'Latest technology' for helicopters Crews to train for rescue role Firms to bid for rescue contracts A private company will take over the UK's helicopter search and rescue operations, the Department for Transport has announced. The Bristow Group has won a 10-year contract to run the service from 2015. The £1.6bn deal ends 70 years of search and rescue from the RAF and Royal Navy. Bristow will replace ageing RAF and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters with modern Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestland 189s. Under the new contract, 22 helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK. Ten S-92s will be based, two per site, at Stornoway and Sumburgh, and at new bases at Newquay, Caernarfon and Humberside airports. Ten AW189s will operate, two per site, from Lee-on-Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports. All bases will be operational 24 hours a day, and half of the new fleet will be built in Yeovil, Somerset. Bristow Helicopters is an Aberdeen-based company, although the corporate headquarters of the Bristow Group is in Texas. The firm has already been preparing crews for coastguard duties at Sumburgh in Shetland and Stornoway in the Western Isles. The other current search and rescue (SAR) bases are Culdrose, Wattisham, Valley, Boulmer, Portland, Lee-on-Solent, Chivenor, Leconfield, Lossiemouth and Prestwick. There will continue to be an RAF base at Valley, Anglesey, however the SAR unit will be in Caernarfon. 'Great confidence' The Department for Transport began the procurement process in November 2011 for providing SAR helicopter services on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It wanted an all-weather SAR helicopter service able to operate throughout the UK, including mountainous terrain and at sea. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Our search and rescue helicopter service plays a crucial role, saving lives and providing assistance to people in distress on both land and on sea. "With 24 years of experience providing search and rescue helicopter services in the UK, the public can have great confidence in Bristow and their ability to deliver a first class service with state-of-the-art helicopters." The government says the new deal means helicopters "will be able reach a larger area of the UK search and rescue region within one hour of take off than is currently possible". It also estimates, based on historic data, that there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20% - from 23 to 19 minutes. Bristow's website says its helicopters and pilots have already rescued more than 7,000 people in the UK. It also operates in the Netherlands, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Russia, Brazil and Canada.